airport amenities

“The Phoenix” at PHX Airport & What We Learned About Lost Amenities

Few airport rental car centers are places you want to hang out in for longer than you have to.

But the rental car center at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is an exception.

The big, bright, open lobby has a cafe in the center with comfortable chairs and there’s artwork from the collection of the Phoenix Airport Museum all over the facility, including down the hallways that lead to the restrooms.

Here’s a link to a guided tour of the art on display at the PHX rental car center that’s yet to be updated with the newest and biggest installation: a three-panel mural by Paul Coze titled “The Phoenix” that is 75 feet wide and 16 feet high.

The mural was installed in PHX Terminal 2 back in the early 1960s. But when Terminal 2 was demolished, the mural was moved here. You can learn more about the artist, the images in the mural, and the heroic effort it took to safely remove the mural from Terminal 2 and reinstall it at the rental car center here and in our article for The Points Guy here.

But we want to take a few moments to talk about – and mourn – the amenities that were once in PHX Terminal 2.

What Once Was at PHX Terminal 2

When Terminal 2 opened at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in the 1960s it was one of the most modern airport terminals in the country.

PHX shared a list of the amenities at the new, modern, terminal.

In addition to a long concourse with 10 gates and an indoor (indoor!) baggage carousel, the terminal had a hotel reservation kiosk with individual phones connected directly to each hotel’s reservation desk.

Other amenities included a game room with pinball machines, a rooftop observation deck, shops, a bank, a barbershop, a flower cart, a cocktail lounge, a restaurant with a glass-enclosed terrace, and, up above, The Phoenix mural by Paul Coze.

All those terminal features were certainly swanky for the time. But what really caught our attention was the nursery where passengers and airport visitors could leave their kids while they enjoyed all the amenities in the terminal.

Over the years, many (OK, most) of those amenities were set aside.

And over time the terminal was remodeled in such a way that “The Phoenix” mural was no longer easy to see or fully appreciate.

According to Gary Martelli, Phoenix Airport Museum manager & curator, during the first remodel, in the 1980s, parts of the mural became obscured when the terminal ceiling was lowered, and the columns were rounded. In the 1990s, a new restaurant was built with a vent hood in front of the mural. Then, in the early 2000s, security enhancements created a long wall bisecting the Terminal 2 lobby and further obscuring views of the mural.

Now, in its new home in the southwest corner of the central escalator lobby in the PHX Rental Car Center, “The Phoenix” is easy to see and impossible to miss. Nearby are exhibit cases with information about Terminal 2 and artist Paul Coze, along with photos from the initial installation of the mural. As a nice touch, there are also viewing telescopes (at two heights) to allow visitors to take a closer look at the details and embellishments in the mural.

FWA: 5 Things We Love About Fort Wayne Int’l Airport

5 Things We Love About Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA)

We’re back with another episode in our “5 Things We Love About…” series highlighting features and amenities at airports about the country and the world.

Today we land at Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA) in Indiana.

1. Free cookies at FWA

Without a doubt, Fort Wayne International Airport has one of the best airport amenities we’ve encountered: free cookies for all arriving passengers.

On our first visit to FWA, a seatmate told us that we’d get a cookie on arrival. We thought they were making a joke. But it turned out they were not kidding at all.

The cookies are baked at Ellison Bakery, just across the street from the airport. And FWA has been handing out these delightful welcome snacks for more than 20 years.

The cookies are clearly a hit: in June 2020 the airport handed out its “3 Millionth Cookie” and debuted a new style of cookie. Now, instead of one cookie, every arriving passenger at Fort Wayne International Airport is welcomed with a package that’s filled with several miniature cookies. The flavors include Birthday Cake and Chocolate Chip and several other varieties are rotated in.

2. Local brands at FWA

FWA puts an emphasis on local brands in the airport. Chapman’s Brewing Company out of Angola, Indiana serves a touch of Northeast Indiana with locally brewed beer on tap. And Conjure Coffee brings a sampling of Fort Wayne’s local coffee scene to FWA.

3. Customer service at FWA

We told you about the cookies that the Hospitality Hosts hand out to passengers at FWA. In any airport, that would check the box for customer service.

But FWA doesn’t stop there. The airport’s Customer Service Agents (CSAs) also provide complimentary curbside luggage service, wheelchair assistance, a parking lot shuttle, and other services.

4. Hospitality PAWS

Hospitality PAWS is FWA’s certified therapy dog program.

All the pups are highly trained and certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs and show up with their trainers at select times during the week.

5. More to come at FWA

Project Gateway is FWA’s expansion and improvement project. On the agenda: the Parking Lot Rehabilitation Project, East and West Terminal Apron Improvement Project, and the FWA West Terminal Building Expansion. That last piece will add additional gates, a new Mother’s Room, an upgraded Children’s Play Area, and expanded ticketing area, a modernized exterior façade, and more.   

Did we miss your favorite feature of Fort Wayne International Airport? Let us know in the comments section below. And feel free to nominate the next airport to be featured in the “5 Things We Love About…” series.

A moment with Minute Suites

Many airport services and amenities are not back at full power yet. And some may never be. And we have been wondering what’s up with Minute Suites, the company that rents out private rooms in some airports where travelers can sleep, rest, or get some work done during layovers.

The suites include a daybed sofa that turns into a bed, sound masking, a thermostat, a workstation, Wi-Fi, Netflix, and DIRECTV. Travelers can book a suite on the app or in person. And travel essentials are sold at the front desk.

The company did shut down temporarily during spring/early summer 2020. But it has now reopened in all its previous airport locations, including Atlanta, Charlotte Douglas, Dallas-Fort Worth, LaGuardia, and Philadelphia. Since October 2020, the company has even added new locations in the Baltimore and Nashville airports. And they have also signed ten more leases for additional airport locations.

“We were fortunate that American Airlines chose to consolidate much of their traffic through DFW and Charlotte and we re-opened our facilities there during the summer,” said Minute Suites co-founder and director of development Daniel Solomon. “Travelers valued our service for natural social distancing and as a safe place to relax and unmask.”

Are the suites santized?

Cleaning the rooms between guests was important before the pandemic, of course, but now the sanitation protocols are, of course, even more important. “[We] have employed a medical-grade cleaning protocol after each guest for over a decade,” says Solomon, “It features a disinfectant agent that is EPA-certified to kill COVID-19.” (More about the cleaning systems here.)

Now that more people are traveling, Minute Suites is reporting healthy recovery numbers in part because passengers are realizing that inside the suites is one of the few places in the airport where they can safely take off their masks, eat a take-out meal, work, rest, or nap.

What is the cost?

Minute Suites rent for $45 for the first hour (the minimum). After that, rates are charged in 15-minute increments. Right now, though, you are likely to be offered a 25% discount. As a nice gesture, Minute Suites has always offered nursing and pumping mothers a 30-minute free stay.

Travelers who have Priority Pass memberships (or credit cards with that beneift) get the first hour at Minute Suites sites free and a discounted per hour rate after that. A Minute Suites spokesperson says they are seeing a lot of Priority Pass usage right now.

What are the best new airport amenities of 2020?

Despite challenges, airports landed welcome new amenities this year

[This is a slightly different version of the story we prepared for USA TODAY]

Despite the challenges set out by COVID-19 this year, airports pressed forward and introduced new features, new art, new technologies, and new amenities for passengers.

For example, in January 2020, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), went smoke-free, one of the last major U.S. airports to do so. And in February, Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE) introduced a coat-check service. It is still the only U.S. airport offering this service.

Courtesy MKE

Here are some other new amenities airports introduced in 2020. Keep in mind that some may be temporarily unavailable due to health concerns.

New art, attractions, and a new terminal

Courtesy LaGuardia Gateway Parnters

As part of the much acclaimed rebuild of New York’s LaGuardia Airport, in November a 25-foot-tall water feature turned on in Terminal B, In addition to displaying various patterns and shapes, the water falling from the towers’ nozzles serves as a backdrop for projected laser shows.

During November, Denver International Airport (DEN) celebrated the arrival of the 27-foot-tall ‘Luminous Wind’ sculpture at the light rail station stop right before the airport.

Courtesy Denver International Airport

And in September and October, Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) debuted its new Terminal B. This is the first phase of the first new hub airport built in the U.S. in the 21st century.

Courtesy Salt Lake City International Airport

New Observation Decks and a record-breaking sky bridge

In February San Francisco International Airport (SFO) opened the SkyTerrace. The pre-security deck in Terminal 2 is open to the public and offers 180-degree views of the busiest section of SFO, where all four runways intersect.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) claimed a spot in the record books in February with the installation of a 780-foot long pedestrian bridge that is now the world’s longest structure over an active taxiway.

Courtesy Port of Seattle

And as part of its Gate Expansion Program, in November, Denver International Airport (DEN) unveiled an outdoor deck on the west side of Concourse B. In addition to outdoor seating, the deck has a pet relief area and fire pits.

Courtesy Denver International Airport

Entertainment

While most airports had to put their in-terminal music and performance programs on hold, airports continued to offer entertainment.

Almost two dozen airports banded together in August and again in May for JetStream music festivals. The free, multi-hour livestream events featured musicians from the entertainment line-up offered by the participating airports.

Over the summer, California’s Ontario International Airport (ONT), which has served as movie set for some popular films, set up movie screens and drive-in movie nights. In October, Akron-Canton Airport (CAK) and Nebraska’s Lincoln Airport (LNK) had drive-in movie nights for Halloween-season movies.

Courtesy ONT Airport

And Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) debuted an entertaining Coca-Cola themed lounge in Terminal D complete with charging stations, seating, activities, and memorabilia-filled exhibits.

Courtesy DFW Airport

Fresh Services for health and safety

Of course, in response to the COVID-19 health pandemic, airports have been focusing time, energy, creativity and, of course, money on making sure the terminals are clean and safe for travelers.

Since March, airports throughout the country have sprouted hand-sanitizing stations, PPE vending machines, and temperature-check programs. They have developed contactless systems for bag check, check-in, security screening, and boarding. And both Grab and At Your Gate have expanded their offerings for in-airport food ordering and delivery.

Cleaning and sanitizing robots have joined the permanent staff at airports in Pittsburgh, San Antonio and many other cities.

Courtesy PIT Airport

In May, Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) introduced a virtual information booth. Los Angeles International Airport, Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI), and Denver International Airport (DEN) now offer similar services. And as the holiday season kicks off, COVID-19 testing stations, many in partnership with airlines, are quickly proliferating at airports across the nation.

Courtesy SDF Airport

Did we miss a new airport amenity you spotted in 2020? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Souvenir Sunday: Free Cookies at Fort Wayne Int’l Airport (FWA)

Since 2000, volunteer hosts at Fort Wayne International Airport in Indiana has been welcoming arriving passengers with free individually wrapped cookies.

The cookies are made fresh by the nearby Ellison Bakery. And when the volunteers are off-duty, cookies are still available from a self-serve cookie kiosk at the security exit.

Over the years, FWA Airport has given out a lot of those free cookies.

Millions, in fact.

And on Friday, June 26 the airport had a party for the 3-millionth free cookie.

The guests of honor? An unsuspecting family arriving on a flight from Tampa. In addition to the free milestone cookie, their prizes include a basket of gifts from the airport, a free roundtrip ticket for 2 on Allegiant Air, and lots more cookies from Ellison Bakery. Nice!

Despite a drop in air traffic that is no doubt taking a bite out of its budget, the free cookie program at Fort Wayne International Airport is not crumbling.

In fact, FWA and Ellison Bakery announced that arriving passengers will now get a free package of 7 small assorted cookies instead of just one.

Read more about the welcome cookie program at Fort Wayne International Airport in my story on the Runway Girl Network.